As first time cruisers, we had open minds about the novelty, hoped for more good experiences than bad ones and were prepared to view disappointments as leanings not show stoppers. Luckily, our cruise was way more positive than negative. In fact, the negative aspects were mostly revelations of mismatch in our living habits and the hallmarks of any cruise: eating a lot, boozing, casinos and lounging in the sun all day. For light eaters and drinkers, non-gamblers as well as brief sun tanning people, we discovered that cruising might not be the ideal choice for our future vacations, especially when out at sea where you cannot go offshore for something else to do. Bear in mind: this is in no way a bad critic of our cruise but rather a realization that it may not be the best fit for our family. This being said, the cruise itself was superb! We never saw or experienced the negative points shouted by some reviewers of this site (drunken people, obnoxious kids, bad cruise director, etc...) and positives included:
- Ease of arrival and boarding in Boston: drive-in, offload, park, welcome by NCL staff, efficient logging-in process, no lost luggage.
- Warm, welcoming and happy staff throughout to help guests in any way. A diverse international crew, not everyone fluent in English but everyone tried and made sure to be understood. Kudos's to Andrew our usual waiter at the Venetian and Leslie, our stateroom steward.
- Mostly excellent restaurants serving balanced portions with efficiency. We tried 2 cover-charge restaurants, the Cucina and the Bistro which were both worth the extra charge, especially the Cucina.
- Long duration of Bermuda stop (2½ days) which permitted a more thorough visit. Bermuda has an excellent and very affordable transportation system, especially the ferries, to go farther than the nearby Dockyard area. It pays to inquire ahead in Bermuda Tourism or Transportation websites to find good value instead of paying single fares. We visited (read "shopped") Hamilton in the second morning which was delightful.
- Calm sailing, no seasickness.
- Very polite, well-mannered, patient, happy cruising crowd, including the kids and teens, perhaps because of the Dawn's Boston departure rather than New-York departures (as read in this review site in previous years).
- Excellent production shows, especially the 70's tribute "Band on the run".
- Met-up with others from Quebec so we could converse in French and the girls made friends who also spoke French.
Negatives were few but for the sake of completeness:
- Bad luck for beaches: horseshoe bay in the rain (not crowded but no fun!) and overcrowding in snorkel beach club on the only sunny afternoon. Beach lounging was not our priority anyway! No one has control over the weather wherever they choose to vacation.
- Questionable food at the "24-7" Blue Lagoon as our entrEe of chicken wings showed what looked like hairs sticking out of the batter. Never ate there again nor at the Moderno Churriscaria which shares the same kitchen.
- Cost of extras, especially the pictures. We were prepared for the cost of excluded items such as drinks and the mandatory 12$ per day per person gratuity but not for the ever-present solicitation for pictures: embarkation, sail-away, restaurants, disembarking in Bermuda, multiple backdrops for poses, etc... at 13$ per 5X7 and 20$ per 8X10, it can add-up ... and it did ! High-quality, professional photographers; why did the picture all had to be so darn good !
All in all quite happy with our vacation but we open-mindedly discovered it might not the best fit for our family; just a personal realization.